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Rick

Urcuqui, Ecuador
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  • 108
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  • In Cold Blood

  • By: Truman Capote
  • Narrated by: Scott Brick
  • Length: 14 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8,564
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,752
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,751

Why we think it’s a great listen: It’s a story that most people know, told here in an unforgettable way – an audio masterpiece that rivals the best thrillers, thanks to Capote genre-defining words and Brick’s subtle but powerful characterizations. On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Still the Best

  • By Lisa on 01-10-06

Still Chilling After All These Years

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-03-18

This is a perfect example of how reading a book is sometimes not quite the equal of hearing it. I read it decades ago, but for whatever reason—whether distractions, or skimming some parts—the meticulous recitation of the narrator fills in a wealth of details, and makes a work like this True Crime trailblazer exponentially more textured and memorable.

Capote never allows himself to lapse into the first person, despite his considerable ego and exhaustive interviews and research (conducted with the assistance of his childhood pal, Harper Lee). Scott Brick’s adoption of an understated prairie drawl is a natural.

The question remains: Is this simple voyeurism? A couple of aimless losers kill a long-forgotten family you didn’t know, for no real reason. Should we treasure the creation of a genre that’s only been outsold since by “Helter Skelter?” Yet it’s also a window into a time and place; an era brought to life with uncommon clarity for its thoroughness and skill—Capote took six years to write it. That he chose a savage crime as the vehicle to reanimate a moment in time may be what most makes it a real contribution to literary art.

  • Figures in a Landscape

  • People and Places; Essays: 2001-2016
  • By: Paul Theroux
  • Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
  • Length: 16 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11

Paul Theroux's latest collection of essays leads the listener through a dazzling array of sights, characters, and experiences. Travel essays take us to Ecuador, Zimbabwe, and Hawaii, to name a few. Gems of literary criticism reveal fascinating depth in the work of Henry David Thoreau, Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, and Hunter Thompson. And in a series of breathtakingly personal profiles, we take a helicopter ride with Elizabeth Taylor, go surfing with Oliver Sacks, eavesdrop on the day-to-day life of a Manhattan dominatrix, and explore New York with Robin Williams.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A Rich and Varied Anthology

  • By Rick on 11-15-18

A Rich and Varied Anthology

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

This collection of essays spans and connects an ambitious array of subjects: travel, biography, the craft of writing, and considerable introspection. Theroux’s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor is frank and uncritical of her weirdness; of his friend Hunter S. Thompson, sympathetic. There is Joseph Conrad, and Henry Thoreau. The author’s obvious admiration for Oliver Sacks—who obviously deserved it—goes on forever, and when it reappears repeatedly in the subsequent revealing chapter on Robin Williams, becomes too much. He criticizes Bono and other stars who drum up support for aid to Africa as "mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth."

But Theroux can be a pugnacious character, sometimes even appearing in his travel novels such as “The Old Patagonian Express” to be having a miserable time. His criticisms are not without basis, and well-argued.

As a frequent traveler, I especially enjoyed the thoughtful chapter 13, “Talismans for Our Dreams.” It’s about collecting things, which he asserts is not the same as shopping, but has a greater affinity with hunting. “Collectors are not merely possessors,” he says. “They are themselves possessed by the search, and at last by the objects of their affection.”

Above all, this varied collection is a reminder that Theroux - like any writer of repute - has spent a lifetime as a voracious, insatiable reader. He advises that we not read the book, but rather the author; everything he or she has written. This is a perfect work to dip in and out of over time. Its nearly 17 hours provide endless variety to enjoy when you’re in the mood for a literate and provocative essay.

Edoardo Ballerini somehow manages to become Theroux. If I met Theroux and he opened his mouth to speak, I would expect to hear the voice of Ballerini.

  • The Long Haul

  • A Trucker's Tales of Life on the Road
  • By: Finn Murphy
  • Narrated by: Danny Campbell
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 670
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 621
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 616

More than 30 years ago, Finn Murphy dropped out of college to become a trucker. Since then he's covered hundreds of thousands of miles packing, loading, and hauling people's belongings all over America. Murphy whisks listeners down the I-95 Powerlane, across the Florida Everglades, in and out of the truck stops of the Midwest, and through the steep grades of the Rocky Mountains.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Shines a whole new light on moving industry

  • By Chad on 03-01-18

The Call of the Open Road

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-15-18

Finn Murphy is a guy who skipped his last year of college to fulfill his dream of becoming a trucker. After decades specializing as a long-haul driver for high-end executive moves, and making good money, he’s written a book about some of his adventures. It’s more interesting and articulate than the term “truck driver” might imply, maybe because he’s spent thousands of hours listening to NPR and audiobooks on his travels. But he was also a bright college kid who opted to follow his passion for the open road.

The stories are good ones, often funny, and fun listening. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about the tricks of the trade—things you might use the next time you find yourself making a move.

Danny Campbell’s reading is warm and friendly, and makes for easy listening.

  • Washington Black

  • A Novel
  • By: Esi Edugyan
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 206
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 195
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 191

George Washington Black, or "Wash", an 11-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master's brother as his manservant. To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning - and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Now what do I do?

  • By Mary L. Doyle on 10-04-18

A Genuine Masterpiece

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-11-18

We know from the opening moments that the perspective of a slave is one we could never imagine, when the child describes witnessing the death of his owner as “watching the dead go free.” So desperate is the slave experience that they share a belief that when they die, they will be returned to their ancestral homeland. No wonder they contemplate suicide, and sometimes accomplish it.

Dion Graham’s almost-whispering narration belies the nonstop unexpected drama that awaits an 11-year-old boy called Wash whose whole world in 1830 is a Barbados sugar plantation. That will soon change, beginning with a hot air balloon in a storm at sea, and a dead white man left behind.

The novel spans great lengths of time and even greater distances, through the eyes of a bewildered former slave with physical and emotional wounds, like a scarred Phileas Fogg with a cutthroat bounty-hunter on his tail. From the Caribbean to Virginia and the Underground Railroad, to the Arctic, Nova Scotia, London and Morocco, he encounters other damaged mortals in his travels, each flawed in their own unique ways.

Esi Edugyan wields brilliant, evocative prose with such descriptive power, and plot points you never see coming. It is history, science and travelogue, but none of that is an adequate description. It is an adventure, but also a kind of pilgrimage.

Near the end, in an African desert, a grown-up Washington Black rages at the benefactor who transformed his prospects and later abandoned him: “You are more concerned that slavery should be a moral stain upon white men, than by the actual damage it wreaks on black men!”

But the truth is even more complex than that, and more subtle.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Blaze

  • A Novel
  • By: Richard Bachman, Stephen King
  • Narrated by: Ron McLarty
  • Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,271
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 845
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 848

Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., of the crimes committed against him and the crimes he commits, including his last, the kidnapping of a baby heir worth millions. Blaze has been a slow thinker since childhood, when his father threw him down the stairs and then threw him down again. After escaping an abusive institution for boys when he was a teenager, Blaze hooks up with George, a seasoned criminal who thinks he has all the answers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good story

  • By Randall on 04-25-09

Chasing the Dream

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-24-18

“Blaze” is an homage to “Of Mice and Men,” says Stephen King in a forward. He would know because, of course, he IS Richard Bachman. Blaze is a gentle giant with a mental disability, brain-damaged as a child at the hands of an abusive father, and now in the thrall of a small-time con artist named George—who in Ron McLarty’s narration sounds like a credibly raspy George Burns.

George came away from a stint in prison believing that the secret to criminal success is one big score, then retire. They plan to kidnap a baby for ransom. But now George is dead, while his voice lives on in Blaze’s head, providing guidance and encouragement to carry out the crime of a lifetime. There are strong parallels to Steinbeck, including the powerful motivation of a dream that always seems just out of reach.

Skillful manipulation mixing past and present maintains the pace but never confuses. Near the end of the book, we’re still learning new and interesting things about the characters’ pasts, while the future looks ever grimmer.

This would be the last of the Richard Bachman books, who was later reported to have died suddenly in 1985 of "cancer of the pseudonym."

  • Butcher’s Crossing

  • By: John Williams
  • Narrated by: Anthony Heald
  • Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 229
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 207
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 208

In the 1870s, Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek "an original relation to nature," drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher's Crossing, a small Kansas town full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. One of these men regales Will with tales of the immense buffalo herds hidden away in the Colorado Rockies and convinces him to join an expedition to track them down.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another prose painting by a master.

  • By Ron on 02-12-17

Western with an Edge

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-17-18

When John Williams was writing “Butcher’s Crossing” around 1960, he said that “the subject of the West has undergone a process of mindless stereotyping.” This novel was his response.

The story has a simple framework, really: a callow young man entranced by Emersonian philosophy leaves Boston and Harvard to seek adventure in the West. In the minuscule settlement of Butcher’s Crossing, Kansas, he finds someone to take him on a buffalo hunt, and a four-man ensemble sets out for a secret valley in the Rocky Mountains where one of the last great herds of buffalo still roams.

The party comprises the young man, Will Andrews; Miller, a veteran buffalo hunter; Charley Hoge, a Bible-toting alcoholic (who for some reason, or no reason, is always referred to by his full name); and Fred Schneider, who can skin a fallen buffalo every five minutes.

The animals are there, all right, and in a few frenzied weeks the hunters kill them all, stacking the hides and leaving the carcasses to rot in the sun. They estimate they have some 4500 hides. Then a bitter mountain blizzard traps them so suddenly that they barely have time to fashion a cramped shelter (of buffalo hides) to survive the long and brutal winter.

Triumph eventually turns to tragedy, and the survivors return to Butcher’s Crossing to find that in their winter absence, the world has changed dramatically.

It’s an excellent, rugged, realistic story with an unexpected ending. The characters are hard-edged realists and not particularly heroic. Anthony Heald’s superb narration is lively as always.

There are times when it seems like the Western, and not just this one, could be defined as “A form of literature distinguished by the use of the term “spat”—the past tense of spit—every couple of minutes.” Nonetheless, this trailblazing novel led the way for others that eschewed movie-star glamor in favor of a more realistic portrayal of what the 1870s frontier must have been like.

  • Usher's Passing

  • By: Robert R. McCammon
  • Narrated by: Scott Aiello
  • Length: 16 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 149
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 138
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 139

Ever since Edgar Allan Poe looted a family's ignoble secret history for his classic story "The Fall of the House of Usher", living in the shadow of that sick dynasty has been an inescapable scourge for generations of Usher descendants. But not for horror novelist Rix Usher. Years ago he fled the isolated family estate of Usherland in the menacing North Carolina hills to pursue his writing career. He promised never to return. But his father's impending death has brought Rix back home to assume the role of Usher patriarch - and face his worst fears.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Usher’s Passing: Enjoyable McCammon Novel

  • By B.E.P. on 07-09-18

Beyond Poe

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-12-18

It’s easy to forget that Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher” was a compact short story, just over 7000 words. This 17-hour novel is not so much a retelling as a sequel, set generations later and moved from somewhere around Boston to North Carolina. Have no fear: the family is as weird as ever. And the house itself—The Lodge—is a massive, ominous place, a living thing that is clearly evil with its powerful smell of rot and decay. It’s the stench of death.

Other than a historical appearance by Poe himself in the early going (and a fissure down the side of The Lodge, and the patriarch’s hypersensitivity to light and sound), this bears little resemblance to the original. It is all new and imaginative, featuring the likes of the Pumpkin Man, the Mountain King, and a hideous black panther known by the locals as Greedy Guts. But there are worse things. Far worse.

Mystery piles upon mystery, spreading to the Usher family, its lineage, and the hillbillies who populate the surrounding mountains—and whose superstitions are revealed to be based on something more than folklore. Children disappear. There are monsters, and monstrous people. Characters are like shape-shifters who are never what they appear to be for long.

The story steadily gains momentum from a deceptively slow-ish start, moving from the merely peculiar to the abjectly supernatural and terrifying.

McCammon employs a neat trick, used sparingly, where present-day events give way to vivid flashbacks, outside the observations and dialogue of contemporary characters. You barely realize it’s happening, but it serves to reinforce the history of this bizarre family and its impact on their present tribulations.

Scott Aiello delivers an energetic reading, handling many voices with alacrity. He has a habit of dropping odd pauses in mid-sentence, but makes up for it with a lively rendering of a tale that Poe would approve.

  • Summer of Night

  • By: Dan Simmons
  • Narrated by: Dan John Miller
  • Length: 22 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,991
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,823
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,826

It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic childhood. But amid the sun-drenched cornfields, their loyalty will be pitilessly tested.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Go Ahead...Take A Stroll Down Horror Lane

  • By Jan on 10-31-14

Terror at a Snail’s Pace

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-30-18

A crumbling, condemned schoolhouse, scheduled for demolition. A mute WWI doughboy who wanders the woods in boots and puttees. The battered and malodorous truck from the rendering works that could have a mind of its own. A massive, ancient bell – that may or may not exist.

In the summer of 1960, a tightly-knit group of young schoolboys will fixate on solving the mystery of their dreams. But dreams turn into nightmares when people start dying, and the dead come to life and glow in the dark.

This story takes a long time to develop, with what seem to be wildly unrelated clues separated by vast expanses of prose. It does all begin to converge, but after listening to more than half of the 22 hours it just couldn't sustain my interest. I prefer unabridged books, but not unedited ones. This one probably needs to choose between terror and nostalgia, because it does both of them well.

While I very much like Dan John Miller’s narration, he doesn’t do many kids' voices artfully or convincingly. (Neither could I.) And the recording is weirdly equalized, sometimes with too much sibilance and other times too little, alternating between splatter and lisp. Not fair to the narrator, and distracting from the story.

  • The Song of Achilles

  • A Novel
  • By: Madeline Miller
  • Narrated by: Frazer Douglas
  • Length: 11 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,157
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,717
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,699

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wasn't Expecting to Like It- BOY! was I wrong!!

  • By susan on 06-11-14

Legend Reimagined

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-20-18

Mythology lends itself to reinterpretation, and while scholars might howl at any deviation from the authority of The Iliad, Madeline Miller’s novel is a refreshing take on ancient history. It is a beautifully written account of gods and kings, mythical cities, love and war.

The story is told in the voice of Patroclus, an ostracized prince who meets the half-god Achilles when both are young boys. After a time in school, they are sent into the mountains to be taught everything from philosophy to medicine by a Centaur—something of an Obi-Wan Kenobi figure in this case. Patroclus and Achilles grow from unlikely friends to lovers and inseparable companions while the Trojan War looms, and with it Achilles’ foreboding destiny.

As the siege of Troy stretches for a decade and then rushes toward a climax, events overtake the warriors with dizzying speed.

It’s no spoiler to reveal that all the characters have died after thousands of years, but when they do, the story continues, bridging life and death in a deeply moving and mesmerizing conclusion.

Frazer Douglas does not recite so much as confide the narration. The individual players are expertly done, and especially the gravelly tone of the sea nymph, Thetis, the embittered and conflicted mother of Achilles, of whose voice Patroclus says, “I had expected chimes, not the grinding of rocks in the surf.”

An interesting style note: The whole book is written in the present tense.

  • The Big Sky

  • By: A. B. Guthrie
  • Narrated by: Kevin Foley
  • Length: 14 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 285
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 261
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 260

Originally published more than 50 years ago, The Big Sky is the first of A. B. Guthrie's epic adventure novels of America's vast frontier. The Big Sky introduces Boone Caudill, Jim Deakins, and Dick Summers, three of the most memorable characters in western American literature. Traveling the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Rockies, these frontiersmen live as trappers, traders, guides, and explorers.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • amazing adventure and mountain man tales!

  • By TJ on 03-29-16

Shows its Age

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-08-18

The first of Guthrie’s six novels about the Oregon trail and mountain men was published in 1947. The writing is somewhat stilted and dated—not surprising, as it was written 70 years ago. The narration, too, seems a trifle didactic, although Foley does a diverse variety of voices distinctly.

The story is a good one but takes hours to develop, and for me it became tiresome.